My Open Letter to the “Green Shirt Ambassadors” Driving Homeless Individuals out of Beverly Hills
George Saville slept on a cot in a downtown homeless shelter. In the morning, he would catch the bus to Beverly Hills…www.latimes.com
Dear “Green Shirt Ambassadors”,
Congratulations. You just upset a lot of people, including myself. Listen, I get it. There will always be those jobs that people will wish you got struck with the worst case of food poisoning when in reality you are “just doing your job.” (Yes, West Hollywood Parking Enforcement, I’m talking to you). Driving, let’s say…DASH for example, out of Beverly Hills, I wouldn’t be mad at. Driving innocent human beings that happen to be homeless out of Beverly Hills, I’m extremely mad about.
Coming from someone who just happened to have worked in Beverly Hills, who just happened to have befriended a homeless man in Beverly Hills, and just so happens to currently work for a Homeless Non Profit, the stunt you guys pulled with George Saville just opened up a can of worms.
Let’s back track about two years ago. Working at Scoop in Beverly Hills, (R.I.P.) I would constantly look outside the glass windows (probably because there were never any customers, hence the store closing) and spot an interesting character walking up and down Beverly Drive with his newspaper, khaki suit and fisherman’s hat. Anyone that is a Beverly Hills regular knows who I am talking about. Let’s just call him…”Gandalf.” Something about Gandalf intrigued me. I wanted to know more about him. He very rarely talked to anyone. He just happily walked up and down the street, sometimes sitting at the courtyard by The Montage Hotel not bothering a soul. I wasn’t completely sure of his living situation, but I know he didn’t have enough of the same suit to wear a new one everyday and I know he wasn’t going home to his condo in Beverly Hills. This was clearly a homeless individual that happened to just enjoy being around the beautiful city of Beverly Hills. Before I go on, is there anything wrong with a nice man strolling down the street reading the newspaper in a public area? Didn’t think so. Ok, I’ll continue.
I decided to approach Gandalf one afternoon on my break while he was sitting in the courtyard. For over year, this man and I had lunch together every single day and he told me the most fascinating stories about his life. Were they all true? Probably not. Did I care they probably weren’t true? Not at all. When I was out sick for a while and had to go to the hospital for an injury, guess who asked me how I was feeling every single day after I returned back to work? Yup, Gandalf. Gandalf inspired me so much that I actually left my retail job and decided to work for a Homeless Organization full time.
Now, let’s clear something up. Beverly Hills is NOT Skid Row. I can’t believe I actually just had to write that statement, but clearly people seem to confuse the two? Don’t know about you guys, but I don’t remember seeing meth or crack deals outside of William Sonoma on Beverly Drive. A few lost and confused tourists, sure. But danger? Nah. Skid Row in DTLA is a traumatizing, scary, heartbreaking and depressing scene to take in. I know because I work there. There are drugs, prostitutes and homeless individuals on every block. Mayor Garcetti and the Homeless Organizations are doing their part of trying to fix this. We have a long way to go, but there is progress being made. Let’s turn our focus on this situation, rather than standing on the pretentious block of Rodeo Drive driving off an innocent man trying to get a dollar. Maybe try standing on the corners of Skid Row handing out donated clothing or homemade sandwiches instead. Or better yet, how about take the $500,000 being spent on this “ambassador program” and use it to hire the homeless for odd jobs so they have an honest paycheck. You’re telling me you need that money to help “guide tourists in the area?” Are you kidding me? Let them pick up their damn iPhone and Google their damn destination. I promise you, they can figure it out.
The homeless community around Beverly Hills is an interesting one. They are tame, neighborhood regulars and to be completely honest, add a little character to the somewhat stiff area of Beverly Hills. Everyone knows Eddie, the homeless man that wears a cape and can be seen in every paparazzi photo asking for some money from celebrities or tourists. Sure, it’s “panhandling” but this guy can tell jokes for days and puts a smile on the faces of anyone he talks to. I’d say that is worth the few bucks people give him. Hey, if I’m having an off day, I’d pay someone a few bucks to make me smile. The few homeless people around Beverly Hills that ask people for money are far less of a bother than the stuck up salespeople in the boutiques or the Human Rights Activists outside of Coffee Bean.
I absolutely remember George Saville and to say that he was a “bother” to the community is a weak attempt at making your job look legit. So what? He took a bus to Beverly Hills and socialized with the locals. God forbid someone who happens to not have an actual home wants to- gasp- TALK to a local about current events or even worse, WALK by Urth Caffe! How dare he! He should absolutely stay in his shelter alone and not learn about culture or current events.
Maybe you should rethink the structure and morals of your program. I’m sure the Beverly Hills locals would agree that a tourist with a map entering Saint Laurent is far more offensive than a homeless man hanging out around the area.